Buying Nothing Tangible for 365 Days
It starts today. 365 days of buying nothing enjoyable but food. It's not purely for environmental reasons, sanity reasons, or even financial reasons. It's a lot of things combined. Regardless of the reason, I am committing myself to taking a leave of absence from consumer culture in 2013.
There will be inevitable failures. It's just part of the package. Speaking of packages, I am quite used to several boxes showing up at my door from Amazon each week and even though most of those are just books, it will be sad to see those go. I've quite a few books on my to-read list and most of them are sitting on my bookshelf, so life will go on. Along with books, I'll say goodbye to quite a bit of retail therapy: apparel shopping, my love of gadgets, Apple accessories, kitchen appliances, Groupons, other daily deals, and random stuff from the web. Sigh.
Of course, if my car falls apart, I'll buy a new water pump, or if my intraocular pressure rises beyond 30, I'll get some needed meds and healthcare, and don't worry, I'll still buy deoderant and toothpaste. Transportation is a necessity, so gas, car repairs, plane tickets to see family and friends within the country (which is rare anyway) will be allowed, but no hotel rooms, museum tickets, or anything remotely enjoyable except food will be allowed. I'm also not going to let my house fall apart so essential home repairs won't get ignored (but voluntary upgrades or changes to decor are not allowed). So, as you see, there will be exceptions, but all under a very tightly controlled budget.
I know myself pretty well, and after several experiments in self-control: a 6-month hiatus from refined sugar, three months on the most difficult diet ever: eliminating corn, wheat, sugar, potatoes, fruit, flour, and processed foods, (which ultimately cured my pollen allergies), I'm no stranger to such feats. I think we all should dabble in it from time to time, just to strengthen our resolve and test our willpower. I've apparently got quite a bit.
But this one might prove to be the hardest yet, not only because it is the longest in duration, but because, man, I'm in deep. I LOVE shopping. Put me in an electronics store and I can't walk out empty-handed if I try. I think I check Amazon more than my Gmail, and being such a bargain shopper, I spend a crazy amount of time reading product reviews, researching products, looking up ingredients, and scouring the web for every bit of information that can help me decide on a purchase and the best price. This is an incredible waste of time. It's a guilty pleasure, but it's not a healthy one. I am a health nut, and yes, most of my purchases are things of that nature, but many aren't. I've tried limiting myself to spending X amount on groceries and X amount on clothes, but nope, never works. I've learned one thing about myself, and that is if I want to break a habit or make a change, it is all or nothing. It either all has to go or it will ultimately fail. I couldn't limit myself to one cheesecake a month when I was cutting out refined sugar, I had to donate all of my sugary foods, then go cold turkey (um, cold pie?) for 6 months. And it worked.
The research says we generally have to do things 10,000 times for it to stick. I don't know if a year of abstaining from retail therapy will constitute 10,000 intentionally-ignored temptations, dismissed ads, averted glances at store windows, and the placement of items back onto shelves (as opposed to into my cart), but I imagine I will come close. The good news is that I am organized, clean, and am by no means a hoarder or pack-rat, so I tend not to amass stuff; I just window shop and buy things I ultimately lose interest in and end up donating to shelters and rescue missions at some point. But not in 2013. If I can't eat it, I generally can't buy it.
Anyway, the resolution starts today. I'll keep a log of my progress (and inevitable failures) here and on my twitter page because putting it on the web is a big part of helping me stay accountable to myself. Stay tuned and wish me luck!
- Kumar Sathy